Our internet is spotty here and all I have to watch is Seinfeld on DVD, not that there’s anything wrong with that. I saw The Calzone episode the other day, where Steinbrenner only wants to eat calzones all the time and George gets ousted from the Italian place for digging through the tip jar, and then all I wanted was all the calzones so here we are.
First of all, I’ve never made a calzone and I don’t even really ever cook that much Italian but every time I look at a recipe I tend to stare at it like I’m burning a hole through the paper and never absorb anything so I decided to wing it. This is where the blind confidence we talked about earlier comes in. You have cheap groceries and some time to waste?! Go for it!! Make a calzone!
I felt like a solid homemade tomato sauce was an important base and I just happen to have a recipe that’s so good you’ll want to eat it with a spoon. It’s gorgeous and the easiest thing ever. Here it is:
Basic Tomato Sauce for Brilliant People:
Cook time: about 40 minutes
4 tbsps salted butter, cut into 4 parts (usually unsalted is best for cooking so you can control the sodium blah blah but here the salted butter adds a depth of flavor and a velvetiness that is absolutely unmatchable with anything else)
1 28oz can diced tomatoes. I like Centos or Furmanos. If it’s a got a yellow label, it’s probably good.
1 medium yellow or white onion (unless what I’m cooking calls for something specific, I usually always use sweet yellow vidalias. They’re a treat and I like the added “umph” of flavor. It’s a flavor blasting shortcut! Because it’s important to season at every level).
1 clove garlic, minced
1 bay leaf
Heat the first tablespoon of butter in a medium pot. Meanwhile, peel and halve your onion. That’s it! Just chop it in half. Watch it, because butter browns quicker than oil and then you have to start over after having a small tantrum. Anyway, when it starts to bubble, plop in half the onion.
Spoon it around for like 5 minutes, until it just barely starts to brown. I like trying to flip it over and over with a wooden spoon, it’s harder than it looks, kills time, and cooks it evenly while scooting it around and getting oniony juices everywhere. Which you want.
Then pop in the diced tomatoes and all their juices. Mix it around a few times, and then mince your garlic clove over the pot and toss in your bay leaf and your second tablespoon of butter. Bring it to a simmer and then turn the heat down. Walk away.
Stir every so often and press the tomatoes against the walls of the pot with a wooden spoon to help break down and crush them up a bit. Toss in your third tablespoon of butter around the 25 minute mark.
When it’s been cooking for about 30-35 minutes, turn the heat off, add your last tablespoon of butter, and pull out the onion and the bay leaf. The onion will have separated its layers a little but that ain’t no thing. Just make sure to pull out all the bits.
THEN! You’re almost done. The thing that really clinches this sauce is blending it, either with a handheld immersion blender or in a regular blender in small batches (if you overfill a blender with hot liquid, it’s going to be Chernobyl in your kitchen. Be confident, but careful).
Once you’ve blended it, it will take on a smooth, orangey, almost creamy texture, like a vodka sauce.
Voila! You’ve done it. It’s so unbelievably great, you can stop right there, or season it more with pepper, chili flakes, or oregano (but I wouldn’t). This works on anything! Pasta, bread, a base for soups, or on calzones, which this blog originally promised to be about and we will move towards momentarily..
Right now! The calzone part is as easy as the tomato sauce. While they are gently sousing in butter and softening to something like red velvet, get on with the calzone prep.
First of all, if you, like me, decided to make this on a whim with no warning, and ran to the store to get pizza dough, and have no time to thaw it, and have no microwave, putting frozen dough and a little olive oil into an oven-safe dish and covered with a damp towel and “baking” it at 200 degrees works a treat. Just remember to check on it from time to time and flip it so it thaws evenly. It also preheats your oven for the big calzone party when it’s time.
Since all I know about Italian cooking comes from the movies Big Night (1996) and Do the Right Thing (1989), I have no real say, but I assume you can put anything you want in a calzone, as long as its wrapped in dough and includes sauce and cheese. I had some rapidly wilting zucchini and yellow squash and some hot Italian sausage in the fridge so I decided to make a vegetarian style one and a meaty situation.
First up: Veggie style!
1 small zucchini
1 small yellow squash
1 half yellow onion
Salt and pepper to taste
Couple tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Chop up all the veggies into comparable sizes, a medium dice is fine. Heat up the oil, also to medium. I can never dice things as quickly as I think I can, so I heat the oil second so it doesn’t start smoking and I feel like a failure immediately. Do things in time.
When the oil is shiningly hot, toss in the onions and a pinch of salt. Sweat them out for a few minutes (whilst checking on your tomato sauce), then add the zucchini and squash. Season with a bit more salt and pepper, the chili flakes, and oregano. Dried herbs are stronger than fresh, so season accordingly. Whatever you want to do.
Alternately, or also: The Meaty Option!
Any meat you want. This time is was hot Italian sausage.
This is where it gets super easy! Brown the sausage in the pan! That’s it!
Slice up some fresh mozzarella and basil. I like to chiffonade the basil, or cut it into thin little ribbons. You roll all the leaves together and then slice normally:
Anway, after the ol’ chiffonade and mozzarella routine, it’s time to roll these babies up.
Take the now thawed (and very warm) pizza dough out of the oven, rip off a chunk, sprinkle with flour and stretch into a small round. My dough came out a little clunky, but regardless I’m still qualifying it as perfect. Put a small dollop of sauce, then either the veggie mix or the sausage, then some mozzarella and basil. Be conservative, as all these items seem to expend exponentially while baking.
Fold over, squish the dough together to prevent anything that’s supposed to stay on the inside of the calzone from getting outside of it and all over the pan. Transfer to a baking sheet lining with tinfoil. Make a sailor hat from leftover tinfoil. Pretend you’re the captain of the kitchen. Marry a gay couple in there. Whatever! It’s your kitchen.
When you’ve folded up all your calzones, brush a little olive oil on the tops and pop them in a 375 degree oven for about 20-30 minutes. Check to make sure they’re turning golden brown and not leaking or smoking or burning. When they’re all burnished and beautiful take them out and let them cool for a while. Don’t cut into a hot fresh calzone as all the contents have become liquid fire in the the oven and they will scald you and it will all be really gory. But when they are ready, kablammo! Good, gorgeous, eatin’.
A note to single cooks out there or someone cooking for just two:
Leftovers are wonderful things, and should never go to waste.
Throwing away food is an enORMOUS pet peeve of mine, and I find just scrounging around in the cupboard can yield wondrous magical results when you’re looking to use up some tired ass leftovers. The rest of these ingredients mix wonderfully with eggs for a freshy veggie and mozzarella frittata, or use the rest of the sausage and sauce to make an incredible pasta dish. Or throw them away, but never tell me about it. Again, whatever! It’s your kitchen. And now, your calzone. Happy eating!